The Ten Commandments | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

The Ten Commandments 

For getting elected in Utah.

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Attorney, Lobbyist & Pundit Frank Pignanelli:

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1. Children are a must. A candidate can never have too many children featured in the campaign. Single in my first election, the best advice I received was to consistently reference'in photographs and speeches'the Little League team I coached that summer. Thus, I remained competitive on “family value” issues. A fellow legislative bachelor candidate that year refused such shameless pandering. He lost.

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2. Play the Utah game. Active membership in the LDS church is not a prerequisite to success. However, all candidates must create a comfort level for Mormon voters with the right buzzwords, proper image and attractive message. The grandmaster of this strategy was the last Democrat to win statewide office: Attorney General Jan Graham (who actually won her first election while pregnant).

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3. Just because they’re nice does not mean they’re going to vote for you. Utah is the global headquarters of passive aggressive nonconfrontational conduct. Campaign workers often believe that positive responses from the public indicate momentum and lose focus. Days before the 1996 election, Congressman Bill Orton received well-deserved high approval ratings from voters. Yet, Chris Cannon capitalized on frustration with President Bill Clinton and defeated Orton.

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4. Dump on Washington. Ever since the Buchanan administration sent troops to Salt Lake Valley, Utahns have hated Washington, D.C. Most Republicans succeed at grumbling about the federal government. But Democrats elevated it to an art form with Govs. Cal Rampton and Scott Matheson Sr. Those perceived as too chummy with the feds suffer losses (e.g., Gunn McKay and Karen Shepherd).

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5. It ain’t over til it’s over. Every fall, a handful of candidates foolishly shrink campaigning activities because the polls or their perceptions have them ahead. The textbook example is the 1988 governor’s race when former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson was well ahead of incumbent Gov. Norm Bangerter in autumn. Many Wilson campaign workers ended vigorous electioneering in September, and they were surprised in November.

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Salt Lake City Councilman Dave Buhler:

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6. Define your message. Candidates need to have a clear and credible rationale that resonates with the voters for why they should be elected rather than their opponent.

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7. Raise and spend enough money to get your message out to the voters. Usually, though not always, the candidate who spends the most money wins.

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8. Target voters. Revered professor J.D. Williams (among others) have called this identifying the “saints” (those who will vote for you no matter what) the “sinners” (those who will never vote for you no matter what) and the “saveables” (those who may vote for you if reach and persuade them.)

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9. Identify and turnout voters favorable to you. This is done through a canvass'contacting voters door to door or by telephone. Once you know which voters are favorable to your campaign, encourage them to get out to the polls to vote.

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10. If attacked, respond and then move on. Don’t let your opponent define you. If your opponent’s attacks gain traction with voters, respond and then move back to your message.

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Frank Pignanelli served in the Utah Legislature for 10 years. Dave Buhler teaches campaign management at the University of Utah. He has been involved in a number of campaigns including winning three times as a candidate.

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